Category Archives: Joy in the Journey

The Weighted Blanket is Complete!

I was at a Thanksgiving party this past weekend with a few families from Kepler’s school. The guest list also included the kids’ Special Ed teacher and one of the wonderful aides who has been with us for a few years now. After dinner, listening to the squeals of glee from the basement as the kids romped and played, stories about traveling with the kids began to be shared.

I’m not a particularly dramatic person. While I do not actually think I am boring, my low-key, laid-back manner tends to fit more into the background than the spotlight. I like my stories, so I don’t mind not being in the spotlight. I just observed that my “traveling with kids” stories tend to be more about fun, meaningful times, and less about dramatic scenes including vomit, diarrhea, and emergencies.

Maybe dramatic stories get a bigger bang for their buck, but like I said, I like my stories. I like the memories we have made as a family.

On my blog, hot diggety dog, I get to tell MY stories MY way, and YOU get to decide whether or not you want to read them. Here, then, is the story, with all the little details, of blankets and Eli.

When I was expecting each of my babies, I made each of them a baby blanket. Valerie, my first baby, got a blanket made by a mother who had all the time in the world — tiny squares, hand quilting. I think I finished Jude’s much smaller, much less complicated blanket the night before he was born! Eli got a pieced quilt, but with MUCH larger squares (LOL). Although the first three quilts were mostly unisex, I was sure (without any medical confirmation) that Anna-Jessie was a girl; I chose a floral print.

Kepler got this whimsical, joyful Winnie the Pooh fabric.


Kids are all so unique! Of all five of our kids, Valerie and Eli are the ones who wore their blankets out with all the love they gave to and received from their blankies. I remembered this years later when I heard about sensory processing disorder and saw that maybe Eli could have been diagnosed with that as as child.

I heard about weighted blankets. From the Magic Blanket website:

Recent studies have shown that deep pressure touch, the type of proprioceptive input generated from a
weighted blanket,  releases serotonin in the brain. This is a neurotransmitter that creates a feeling of calm
within our nervous system.

Depression, Anxiety, Aggression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD) and Bipolar Disorder all have a common link: low serotonin levels.

The deep pressure — proprioceptive input —  generated from the Magic Blanket signals the brain to release
serotonin, which in turn naturally calms and relaxes the body, promoting sleep and stress relief.  This effect
has already had tremendous success helping to calm children and adults with sensory integration disorder,
autism, Rett Syndrome, Asperger’s Syndrome,  ADHD, PTSD and Restless Leg Syndrome.

To find out more about how proprioceptive input and a weighted blanket can calm and comfort,  please talk
to an occupational therapist.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it! We procured one of these for Eli’s 19th birthday. When his belongings were discarded by his ex-girlfriend earlier this year, his weighted blanket was one of the things that she saw fit to throw away like trash. I was so sad about its loss until I realized that having to start over wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. This was when I decided to make him a new weighted blanket.

Knowing that Eli was going to be coming home after his stay in rehab (just recently), I planned to have his new blanket completed by the time he came home. As Robert Burns said in a slightly different form, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” (You REALLY should hop over here and read his wonderful poem “To a Mouse” aloud.)
So, twasn’t until about 20 days after he had come home that I finally finished his blanket.
For a weighted blanket, one sews an inner layer into channels (16 in my case), then fills each channel with about 3 TBSP of the kind of beads that fill beanie babies.  After filling the 16 channels, I sewed a horizontal seam,  sealing those 16 little compartments, twenty rows worth, 320 compartments all together.
The top layer fabric I chose was as soft as baby’s hair, which seemed like a really good idea in the store. As I considered how IN THE WORLD I was going to sew it though, not so much. I ended up added a backing layer to it to stabilize it, which worked beautifully.
Finally, it was time to assemble the layers. My machine hummed along, happy to be part of the creation. After sewing three sides together, I stalled again. I was just doing this all by feel, and I could see the blanket turning out whopper jawed, which I didn’t want.
Laid the whole thing out on the living room floor and aligned it and pinned it and felt like it would be ok. Sewed it up. Finished the opening by hand, and then just sat back and marveled. The top layer is the minky, soft brown, and the underside is the flannel with the coffee mug pattern. (I thought he could look at the coffee cups in the morning and wake up a little easier. HAHA!)
It may not have turned out to be EXACTLY 18 pounds, but the word from the guy under the blanket after the first night was PHENOMENAL. Phenomenal — I like that.

Whatever Has Gotten Into Me, I’ll Take It!

I slept poorly last night. Between waiting up for one of the kids, and knowing the bed wasn’t made properly, I got to bed late and then didn’t sleep great. I have a head cold, which was the first thing I noticed when I woke up. Sore throat, sore face, runny nose, headache, the whole nine yards. Definitely a recipe for a day in bed, according to my former policies and procedures. But, I happily got up and proceeded to have a hella good day.

Tonight was a joint birthday party for our daughter, Anna-Jessie, who is turning 17 on Thursday, and her friend, Erica, who turned 17 today. The party was planned completely without any input from me at all. She’s a resourceful girl, that one. It was arranged that it would be held at Erica’s house. Many of the homes in our area have kitchen/dining areas that are approximately the size of our entire living area, so those homes are much more amenable to having 27 teenagers having a blast.

Anyway, this morning I got in touch with Erica’s mom to see what we could contribute food-wise, etc., to the party. After a couple of texts, I was planning to bring a fruit tray and a veggie tray. I cannot tell you the last time I made either from scratch. The best I used to could do was to swing by Kroger and pick up a pre-made tray, and rue the condition of the veggies and the exorbitant price for such a bourgeous arrangement of basic vegetables.

Today, though, I was excited about making the trays. I spent a long time today getting fruits and veggies at Costco, picking up some serving dishes and trays at Gordon Food Service, and then creating some masterpieces, if I do say so myself. Masterpieces, I tell you. Profusions of colors and flavors; homemade french cream dip for the fruit, carefully organized designs, little touches like a foil-covered chocolate Santas standing watch in the middle of each tray.


When all was said and done, I had prepared four trays of food, which was really probably more than necessary, but I didn’t even use all of the produce I bought today, so maybe that is something to remember about buying food at Costco. Those quantities are HUGE.


I guess the biggest thing I noticed is that I spent quite a bit of time on the preparation today and then went to a very loud, very boisterous party with 27 teenagers, and still had energy at the end of the evening. This is very different from my normal experience. I noticed that I really enjoyed the host couple, REALLY enjoyed them, and found them incredibly easy to talk with. Total lack of stress today even though I had to do all this shopping and chopping and arranging, etc.


I do attribute this to my experience in Alaska. I just don’t have all the angst that I had when I went up there. My experience today of putting those trays together was almost like being an artist and creating a piece of art, which is highly enjoyable.


THIS is What Recovery Looks Like

Eli has been home from in-patient rehab for one week now. I love having him home, especially since he obviously is in a VERY different place than he was when he went in a few months ago.

Today, he asked if I could help him with some gas money. He’s in the process of starting new jobs, and so is more dependent until he starts getting paid. We are glad to help him get back on his feet. I handed him $40 and off he went.

As soon as he left, I was gripped with this panic and fear about having given him cash. But instead of judging myself for that, I just texted him and told him that I was feeling a need to be reassured that the money was actually going for gas.

He sent me pictures and videos to reassure me. They made me laugh, and I asked if I could share them. He is so much fun to be around and these pics and vids show what a creative, cool guy he is.

He sent me “Reassurance exhibit A:” empty gas tank.

2015-11-06 19.06.57

Reassurance exhibit B:

Reassurance exhibit C:

And finally,

2015-11-06 19.07.28

I am so glad I am not judging myself. I am so glad he can prove in a fun way that he is using the money like he said he would. I am so glad we can share the fun of this and text about it and allow the process to strengthen our relationship.

No School for Kepler Today!

No school on voting day. Easy peasy. Daughter will be here to take care of Kepler if I need her to.


Now what??

This chart is pretty accurate when it comes to me figuring out the logistics of my life. In a bold and uncompromising move 🙂 I decided to take Kepler along with me.

My Alexander Technique lessons take place is a huge mansion, which seemed like it would be really cool for Kepler to see but maybe a little bit of a worry for me if he didn’t want to just sit and wait for me. Not to worry! Ellen, my teacher, met Kepler with enthusiasm and immediately invited him to ride her “inclinator.”

2015-11-03 14.09.52

And then he and Ellen controlled the inclinator while I took a ride:

2015-11-03 14.11.10

And then he explored the first floor a little bit, and then contentedly settled onto her parlor couch while I had my lesson.

After the lesson, we all piled in my car and drove over to the home of a 94-year-old man who plays the clarinet and wants a pianist to accompany him for a couple of hours each week. I had the extreme privilege of stumbling through the accompaniment and playing with him. He may not have much short-term memory left at 94, but he sure can play the clarinet.

While we were busy making beautiful music, Kepler disappeared for a few minutes. He had gone out to the car, found the bag with his new shoes, and managed to get them on his feet. He normally doesn’t like to put his own shoes on, but he was seriously motivated to get these cool new shoes onto his feet. The toes light up every time he takes a step.

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We did several more errands in the afternoon and just had a wonderful time. I guess my time in Alaska really did refresh me. I hadn’t been up to such a thing for quite some time. Just to give you an idea of the extent of the errands: post office, bank, mall to return clothing, stop at the Stride Rite store because SALE, Alexander Technique lesson, accompanying, back to AT house to drop off friends, IKEA, dance, home to feed and pick up Toast, Smoothie King, Kroger, home for a bath and bed. Remember that every one of those stops requires strapping into booster seat with seatbelt etc., so it’s not quite like just running errands alone!

At the end of the day, we were tired and happy and had had a memorable day off school.

Repost from October 19, 2011: In Which Siouxsie Almost Throws a Hissy Fit at the Gas Station

Oh, excuse me, the ”fuel center.”

The problem with blogging about having a hissy fit is often said h.f. occurs a few hours before the blog can actually be created. In that time, a cooler head and a rational mind can often prevail. And/or, a cool quote from Seth Godin can show up in my inbox. From Seth’s post today, “We repeatedly underestimate how important a story is to help us make sense of the world.” Which then caused me to consider the story behind the hissy fit, aka “conniption” fit.

Yes, I am elderly enough to remember the good old days when one rolled into the gas station and heard the pleasant ding-ding as one drove across the ding-ding hose. Decisions at the gas station in those days amounted to “cash or charge,” “leaded or unleaded” and whether or not you wanted your oil checked. Ah, those were the days, weren’t they. Simplicity. And how things have changed.

Now I shall commence to make a list of all the choices we “get” to make at the gas station these days.

1. Will I be paying credit or debit or gift card?
2. Paying at the pump or at the window?
3. Am I a Kroger plus customer? yes or no.
4. If yes, scan card OR enter alternate i.d. number.
5. Do I want a car wash? Yes or no.
6. Now choose one of the three options of gas grade.
7. Do I want to use my gas discount of x cents? yes or no

Only seven short hoops and I am permitted to pump the fuel into my car!

Besides the above, there are many passive questions facing me.

1. Do I want to apply for another credit card that will save me more cents per gallon?
2. Do I want a snack? “Visit the kiosk!”
3. Am I going to believe the warning about my cell phone being able to cause an explosion?
4. Do I care how recently this pump was inspected?

And don’t forget all the questions zinging through my head about my day.

1. Is that man looking at my hair because I am really having a bad hair day?
2. Will I have time to put everything in the car before I have to leave?
3. Which way should I go home?
4. Will they reverse that fine?
5. What kind of snacks are in the kiosk?
6. And so on and so on.

Here’s what got me today.

See #7 above? It’s always a little surprise to find out whether I have any discount at all, or maybe 10 cents per gallon. Today, surprise! I had a 40 cent per gallon discount available. However, I also had NEW CHOICES.

1. Use my discount as is.
2. Use part of my discount.
3. Don’t use my discount.

I mean, really.

And Seth’s comment reminded me that it is my story about this that dictates my response. My story this morning was that these were unnecessary choices, just one more wildly unnecessary choice in a world filled with way too many choices — my grocery store has, what, 300 different amalgamations of pasta, and by pasta, I am only referring to dry pasta in a box, not all the mixes, prepared foods, and deli offerings. My story is that these are unnecessary choices and unwelcome. But would I really be happy if I went into a story and there were 4 different types of pasta. I would say honestly, at this point, no. I’m used to having boocoo choices about all kinds of minor things. Maybe there are a lot of people who complained to Kroger and said they didn’t want to use the entire discount at one time. I wish I could understand under what conditions that might occur. But, it is what it is and now I get to also decide whether to use my discount as is, a portion thereof, or save it for a rainy day.

So, I’m changing my story just a bit. I feel blessed that I have the freedom to make so many choices in my life. I also recognize that there are very important areas where the choices are limited and sometimes one is as bad as the others (see: politics). But in the hope that this new option at the Kroger Fuel Center makes someone else’s life easier, I accept it with grace and will continue to wait for the fun surprise of finding out how many cents per gallon I might get as a discount today.

(But sometimes I still think it’s fun to throw a hissy fit now and again, as long as it doesn’t spill over onto innocent bystanders.)

Addendum, October 27, 2015: I enjoyed writing this post, and it was fun to discover it again today, four years later. I still think we have an awful lot of choices these days, even more than we had in 2011, but the gas station doesn’t stress me out anymore. It is what it is, and I really am grateful that I have easy access to fuel, food, medical care, cash, and a library, among others.

Finding my way to White Raven Center


photo credit: me
Two of my favorite podcasters, namely Jason Stellman and Christian Kingery of Drunk Ex-Pastors, have been podcasting since August 2014. In August 2015, they had a guest on the show. Seth Taylor, author of Feels Like Redemption. 

Seth’s book is about porn addiction. Although i’m not a porn addict, what Seth said touched me deeply. Our addictions are ways that we medicate deep, unexpressed, unresolved pain and trauma. 

I had been looking at going to an Onsite workshop in Tennessee, but the cost was very prohibitive. After listening to Seth on the podcast, who could barely string together two sentences thanks to the interview style of Jason and Christian, i knew that Onsite, valuable as it may be for hurting people, was more than likely going to give me more head knowledge about changing my attitude, reframing things, understanding more. But there were feelings in me I had always been afraid to express and something in Seth’s brief presentation captured me and drew me to find out more. 

Finding out more meant seeking out his book and reading it. I also emailed him and was pleasantly surprised at how gracious he was to me, a stranger. More about that later.

Within a few days, i began to explore the possibility of heading to Anchorage, Alaska to attend a workshop on core transformational healing. And very shortly after that, I began to plan my trip. 

I had had a transformational summer in 1980 when I spent a summer up there on a Teen Missions trip. I have never forgotten the awe and wonder I felt as we ran around on the Matanuska glacier. While i think we did accomplish some helpful things for the camp we were at, the experiences i had on the glacier and on the mountain were pretty special times, and unique to Alaska. 

So I wanted to go back. If i could see a glacier, that would be cool. If i could climb a mountain, I’d be pretty happy. But if I could find the kind of healing Seth (and his brother, David) wrote about, I’d be a new person. 

It’s hard to explain on the one hand, but easy on the other hand. Each of us store energy in our bodies from traumas, rejections, abuse, wounds, and all types of pain. What Seth and David said, and what I experienced, is that that energy can be cleared out. And when it is, we reclaim parts of ourselves that we have rejected. 

You might not see it in these photos, especially if you don’t know me, but in this first one, I can see the fear and hesitation in my smile and my eyes. 

Here is one of me after the workshop. 

Free of a heck of a lot of pain I’d been carrying around for many, many years. 

I’ve been back for 10 days and everything’s different now. I’m no longer slogging through my days like I’m underwater. I’m no longer triggered by a zillion things. And i feel content and creative and grateful. And I’m going to let my light shine. 

It’s Just That Everything Changed

I think I’ve come down off the intense high I was on when I got home from Alaska, but it still seems tricky to write about what I experienced. I’ll give it a try.

I gave myself plenty of room in my suitcases to be able to bring things home from Alaska. But the best stuff I bought home wasn’t in my suitcase. It was in me.

As we flew from Seattle to Anchorage in a completely full plane, I turned on my music about 45 minutes from landing. I’ve mentioned elsewhere how much I enjoy listening to my music on shuffle. It’s like the fun of listening to the radio as a teen but with all songs that I like and the ability to skip one if I like. Anyway, I noticed as we were coming closer to landing that a song called “Little Butterfly” had begun to play.

Photo credit: Meeee
Photo credit: Also meeee and my iPhone

Someone had told me that flying into Anchorage means flying over water until the very last minute. She said she always is afraid the plane is going to land in the water. So, I was expecting to be over water until the last minute. Didn’t know how beautiful it was going to be.

So, “Little Butterfly.” It’s a song about the transformation that a caterpillar undergoes in becoming a butterfly. Some favorite lines:

I have lived all alone in a world without light.
I have lived in a cell without bars, without sight.
While longing for meadows, and fields full of flowers,
Pain and confusion have filled lonely hours.

A whisper was there each time that I cried,
Saying, “Don’t give up, child, keep hope alive.”
Hope seemed a thing as distant and far
as the most distant galaxy, the most distant star.

I don’t know how many readers will click on the link and listen to this beautiful song, but here it is. 

The entire song is about growth and rebirth. I was going to Alaska knowing that I was ready for growth and rebirth. I was so tired and really needed something. As we came closer to landing, Jana sang:

When my friends now, they call my new name,
And I smile at the promise that my new name brings.
They call me, “Little Mariposa” “Little Butterfly”
And my heart takes wing.

The wheels touched the runway at the exact second she sang the word Mariposa. I was thrilled with the serendipity, but the best was definitely yet to come.

Full lyrics for the song:

Esther Alvarado, Ginger Baker, Jana Stanfield
(with an excerpt from “Butterfly” by Joyce Rouse and Jana Stanfield)

I have lived all alone in a world without light.
I have lived in a cell without bars, without sight.
While longing for meadows, and fields full of flowers,
Pain and confusion have filled lonely hours.
I have wanted to fly, to soar over green fields,
But the hard shell around me would not crack, would not yield.
I felt bound to the earth, wrapped in ribbons of steal,
It hurt when I hoped, it hurt when I’d feel.

Yet even as I yearned so much for release,
Something inside spoke softly of peace.
A whisper was there each time that I cried,
Saying, “Don’t give up, child, keep hope alive.”
Hope seemed a thing as distant and far
as the most distant galaxy, the most distant star.
I did not believe I would ever be free
of the heavy cocoon covering me.

Then slowly, so slowly, came a glimmer of light,
It scared me a t first, this first bit of sight.
There were others around me. Why had they come?
Why had they entered my dark, lonely home?
And then, one by one, they reached out a hand
and lifted the ribbons of steel, strand by strand.
When their hands touched the ribbons, the steel fell away,
And I began to feel different in this lightness of day.

They smiled, they rejoiced, and I heard a song,
One that had played in my heart all along,
These are the words the song sings to me,
This is what it says:

“I can feel a change is coming, I can feel it in my skin
I can feel myself outgrowing, This life I’ve been living in
And I’m afraid, afraid of change,
Butterfly, please tell me again, I’m gonna be all right”

And I know, I know, I’m going to be all right.
And I know, I know, I will take flight.
When my friends now, they call my new name,
And I smile at the promise that my new name brings.
They call me, “Little Mariposa” “Little Butterfly”
And my heart takes wing.

Sorry for the Silence; I’ve been Clearing Space For Joy

Last post, I mentioned I was heading to Alaska. Been there, done that, and am easing back into daily posting with this beautiful art by Lucy Prior from Australia.

‘Getting Back on the Horse’, lino print, mixed media. This is about the journey of loss, grief and getting back into life. by Australian artist Lucy Prior. See more of her work and read about her at

The Process of Preparing for a Trip

All y’all probably have your packing and preparations down pat and don’t stress out the day of a trip. I, on the other hand, tend to wake up on a travel day with some anxiety.

You see, I make my travel plans for sometime in the future and then proceed to pretty much forget about them until either the day of or the day before. I’ve always preferred to pack at the last minute, but I also recognize that I worry then about forgetting something. Of course, forgetting something probably wouldn’t be the end of the world. I have proof of this from a trip Greg and I took years ago where we were packing our clothing in the same suitcase and he alertly removed my little stack o’ undies in order to reorganize the clothing, but he left the little stack o’ undies on the closet shelf. TMI! But we made it through and I’m here to tell about it.

It’s been over a year since I have been preparing for a trip, so I decided to see what I might apply with all my new learnings about offloading mental things into a written list, and asking questions, etc.

First thing I did was to ask myself what result I wanted from packing. Seems like an obvious question, right? But asking it helped me to think about the fact that there are two fairly different portions of this upcoming trip which will require different types of clothing. When I realized exactly what kind of clothes I wanted for Part A, and what kind for Part B, it helped me relax about figuring out what to take.

Next thing I did was eschew my policy of bringing all the groceries in in one trip, no matter how many bags there are. What I mean by that is sometimes I tend to think too small, too “efficient,” and it limits me unnecessarily. When I decided to just take two suitcases instead of cramming everything into one suitcase, my stress level dropped considerably.

First thing before the first thing actually was to use my wunderlist app to offload everything I could think of that I needed to pack and do before we leave. Although I did that instead of sleep for part of the night, I was glad to wake up and have the list already made. So far today, I have completed 36 of the 51 items. I love crossing things off of a list just about as much as I love having a list.

So I’m still in process, but I feel confident that I will be prepared, and that if I forget something it will be provided for me. I feel confident that I am leaving my family prepared for the upcoming week. And I’m excited about my trip.

You have probably figured out I am heading to Alaska later today. North to the Future!

Bonus! The reader who comes up with the most creative reason why I might be going to Alaska will receive a little something from my trip. Leave your suggestion in the comments.

Why I Recommend the Movie “Driving Lessons”

  1. Ben Kingsley. A wonderful actor. His character is appealing and interesting and I learned things.
  2. Patricia Clarkson. I happen to like her a lot and she was perfect for this character.
  3. There were multiple parallels between Clarkson’s character’s experience learning to drive and her (and our) experience navigating change.
  4. The temple and wedding scenes are a rich tapestry for the eyes. It makes me want to look into the role that color plays in the clothing of Indian men and women. Just beautiful.
  5. I’m all about movies about men and women of a certain age who are still vibrant and willing to learn and able to pick up the pieces and try again.
  6. I felt good at the end of the movie.
  7. Even though the harder choice, not the typical romantic movie choice, was made by the main character.
  8. It was a great reminder of how important community is to our mental health and enjoyment of our lives.
  9. And how staying home out of fear keeps us so limited in our understanding and experiences.
  10. Helped me empathize with the experiences of those of other cultures who are assimilating into American culture.

There are hundreds of reviews of every movie out there. I can only tell you why I liked it. I know that some who read this blog will identify with a lot of these reasons. It’s worth seeing. There was one small issue for me — the camera work made me just a little motion sick, so if that’s an issue for you, maybe watch it on the small screen.